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A slORY ABOUT A REAL MAN                                                                   ffftj
passing their doors. So much so, indeed, that one day,
when Meresyev was down with the flu, messengers were
sent from the other wards to inquire what had happened
to the footless lieutenant.
In the morning, Alexei did his physical exercises and
then, sitting on a chair, he would train his feet to perform
the motions necessary to control an aircraft. Sometimes
he exercised until his head swam, until he heard a ring-
ing in his ears and bright green circles swam before his
eyes and the floor seemed to heave under him. When that
happened he would go to the washstand, douse his head
with cold water and lie down for a while in order to
recover quickly so as not to miss his hour of walking and
That day, after walking until he grew dizzy, he groped
his way into the ward, seeing nothing in front of him,
and sank on to his bed. Recovering a little, he became
conscious of voices in the ward: the calm, slightly iron-
ical voice of Klavdia Mikhailovna, and the excited,
pleading voice of Struchkov. Both were so taken up with
their conversation that they failed to notice Meresyev
coming into the ward.
"Believe me, I am talking seriously! Can't you under-
stand? Are you a woman, or not?"
"Yes, of course I am a woman, but I don't understand,
and you can't talk seriously on this subject. Besides, I
don't want your seriousness!"
Struchkov lost his temper and shouted in a railing
"I love you, damn it! You are not a woman, you are
a block of wood not to see that! D'you understand now?"
With that he turned away and drummed his fingers on
the window-pane.
Klavdia Mikhailovna walked towards the door with the
soft, cautious footsteps of the trained nurse.
"Where are you off to? Aren't you going to answer
"This is neither the time nor the place to talk about
that, I am on duty."
"Why don't you talk straight out? Why are you
tormenting me? Answer!" There was a note of anguish
in the major's voice now.